Psychological Safety #31: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #31: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Welcome to the psychological safety newsletter and thanks for subscribing. You are awesome. This week is a surprise bumper edition (in that I expected it to be small but it ended up big!) and includes emergency medicine, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, legal professionals, sex discrimination, and psychological safety in military personnel. 

Enjoy, and have a wonderful day.

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Psychological Safety In the Workplace:
Eve Purdy, applied anthropologist and Emergency Medicine physician, delivered a fantastic talk – “Psychological Safety is no Accident” about psychological safety and emergency medicine teams, and here’s a thread that she put together highlighting the key points. It’s absolutely excellent, from pointing out how hierarchies prevent people pointing out serious problems, to suggesting great practices such as the shift huddle and team briefing. Whether you’re in healthcare or not, this is worth a read and/or watch.

This is a good, concise and actionable article on The Enterprisers Project (aimed at CIOs and IT Leaders) – 5 ways leaders can boost psychological safety on teams by Eeva Raita, Head of Strategy & Culture at the International tech company Futurice.

This video is more than a year old now but I only just came across it – Dr Amy Edmondson being interviewed at “Outside In Live”, and it’s definitely worth a watch (or listen). I like Amy’s point about the cost of speaking up with concerns or ideas and the cost versus the benefit of doing so: the cost is immediate, and potentially high in terms of embarrassment or retribution, whilst the benefit may be lower for the person speaking, and takes longer to realise. Dr Edmondson makes the point more articulately than I, so have a watch 🙂 

If you’re in technology, this is a very interesting piece by Dr Nicole Forsgren (of Accelerate and DORA), proposing a framework for examining developer productivity via five dimensions of Satisfaction and well-being; Performance; Activity; Communication and collaboration; and Efficiency and flow (SPACE). Forsgren describes a refreshingly progressive approach that highlights the importance of the social and individual aspects of productivity, and points out that measuring productivity should not be a management tool, but a tool for teams and individuals to use themselves. 

 Psychological Safety Theory, Research and Opinion:

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs came up again a few days ago in relation to psychological safety. There is a clear alluding to psychological safety in Maslow’s “Safety” and “Love and Belonging”, but I feel there are at least two issues with this hierarchy in relation to psychological safety. 1 – Maslow’s deems these needs to be linear and dependent, whilst most of the critique of it would disagree on this basis. 2 – Psychological safety is a group phenomenon, and Maslow’s hierarchy leans towards the individualistic. And on that note, I’m reminded of this paper about applying Maslow’s to collectivist cultures.

 Indeed, this recent article about the psychological impact of the pandemic, in “Catalyst”, references Maslow’s Hierarchy, and features Dr Amy Edmondson highlighting how the pandemic has encouraged a more open discussion worldwide about our essential needs and desires in relation to work-life. Worth a read.
We don’t often get into the legal domain, but here’s a piece describing research into the mental wellbeing of legal professionals. Legal professionals are at a “high risk” of burnout, with those aged between 26 and 35 displaying the highest burnout scores, and also reporting the lowest autonomy, lowest psychological safety, and highest work intensity score. Female legal professionals, those from ethnic minorities, and those with a disability also scored higher than average for burnout and lower for autonomy and psychological safety at work. 

Sexism in organisational settings has endured despite the implementation of federal, state, and organisational policies that prohibit discriminatory behaviour. One reason for this may be that because organisational policies are typically written for the purpose of complying to federal and state laws, they do little to foster psychological safety among employees and address the “chilly” organisational climates that enable sexism. Here’s a PhD dissertation by Maya Godbole – The Influence of Evidence-Based Sex Discrimination Policies on Women’s Perceptions of Organizational Climate, Sexism, and Organisational Climate, Sexism, and Identity Safety.

And to reflect back on Eve’s piece about emergency medical teams, here’s a paper on cultural barriers to psychological safety in medicine: medicine continues to struggle with providing safe environments for its members. There are several cultural barriers to psychological safety that permit endemic harassment. These include having large power gradients, a weak ethical climate and a number of enabling structural factors that maintain a toxic culture.

Here’s a piece on “The model of psychological safety of a soldier’s personality” by Ihor Prykhodko of the National Academy of the National Guard of Ukraine. It actually contains an excellent concise writeup of the history and context that psychological safety research exists in, as well as examining the factor structure of a scale to assess the psychological safety of a soldier’s personality (PSSP), taking into account changes in the conditions of military service to improve the professional and psychological training of military personnel.

Things to do and try:

This week, I’m asking for your contributions!

Donna Benjamin, Product Owner of The Open Practice Library was in touch this week, discussing how to get more practices into the library. For anyone who doesn’t know, the OPL is an open source library of facilitation practices, grouped into the areas of Discovery, Options, Delivery and Foundation.

I’m pretty sure that a lot of you have some great practices in your pockets, so if you have some time and an idea to add, please head over to the Open Practice Library and select “Add a practice” from the menu. Login to the CMS using your Github ID if you have one (or sign up to github if you don’t – it’s free and quick).

This week’s poem:
My Heart’s in the Highlands, by Robert Burns

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the north,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.

Farewell to the mountains high-cover’d with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.

(P.S. If you have a favourite poem that you’d like me to share, please email me!)


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